Planning policies adding to housing problems - Bennett Homes chief

by Bennett Homes Managing Director Edward Parker

Current planning policies are supposed to be helping the housing shortage but in fact they are adding to the problem, says Edward Parker, managing director of Bennett Homes, an award-winning family-run company based in East Anglia which has been building properties for nearly 65 years.

A great deal has been written about the UK’s housing shortage – public figures such as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson even suggested in his re-election manifesto that the Government should build 250,000 new homes immediately to try to cope with the problem.

But the real issue stems from current planning strategy which, far from encouraging building, is deterring construction and jeopardising availability and affordability. The gap in supply and demand will inevitably prop up prices.

A recent report, Abundance of Land, Shortage of Housing, highlighted the fact that whilst there was ample room for building with only 10 per cent of England’s surface area developed, housing affordability measures showed housing to be unaffordable in all of the 33 UK regions.

The inability of people – particularly young people – to get a foot on the housing ladder because of availability and affordability means that the rental market remains buoyant with high prices leading to a call for the introduction of controls in the private rented sector. Others are encouraging the reintroduction of a 50 per cent target for affordable housing on all new developments – currently the figure varies between 25 and 45 per cent in this region.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published at the end of March 2012 highlighted its part in making the planning system less complex and more accessible to protect the environment and promote sustainable growth. But is this happening?

In my view it is definitely not. The NPPF wholly fails to address fundamental flaws in the current planning framework which all too easily can be high-jacked by nimbyism. The NPPF also worryingly removes any of the remaining certainty that was in the planning system for all businesses.

At the end of the day, there needs to be a balance between preserving our valuable countryside and providing affordable homes for a growing population. Isn’t it time for a commonsense approach?

Contact Bennett Homes on 01284 766057 or at www.bennett-homes.co.uk